Minutes of the West End Neighborhood Association (WENA) Meeting
Wednesday, 10 February 2016
Reiche Community Room
Board members present: Jennifer Defilipp (vice-president), Leana Good-Simpson (treasurer), Ian Jacob (president), Chip Martin, Michel Michaud, Elizabeth Parsons (secretary), Clifford Tremblay
Board members absent: Wells Lyons (excused), Pamela Shaw (excused)
Others present: Allen Armstrong, Elissa Armstrong, Christina Astradian, Lucy Foster Flight, Peter Hall, Steve Graef, David LaCasse, Christine McHale, Eva McVicar, Alexandria May, Sam May, Janet Mishoe, Susan Nelson, Rosanne Graef, Penny Rich, Steve Scharf, Jeanne Swanton, Spencer Thibodeau, Chad Vinkemulder, Judy Witherell, Barb Wood, Kara Wooldrik,
The meeting was called to order at 6:34 PM.
The minutes from January’s meeting were accepted as presented.
The current total in WENA’s regular account is $1019.09. The Swim Fund stands at $3091.01. The WENA regular account figure reflects a $30 reduction since Leana Good-Simpson is now holding that amount as petty cash for making change when people pay dues.
Board member announcements/reports
- “This Changes Everything,” a film based on Naomi Klein’s book of the same name, will be shown at St. Luke’s Episcopal Cathedral on Saturday, 27 February at 11:00 AM. This event is sponsored by St. Luke’s and the Sierra Club, is free, and will include a discussion period following.
- No community policing report was available because Dave Argitis and Sarah Colton had other commitments for the evening. Ian Jacob, though, had requested update from them. He reported that the Portland Police Department will offer another self-defense course. The sign up deadline is 2 March and the fee is $30. For more information, check the City’s website (www.portlandmaine.gov).
- On Thursday, 18 February WENA will host an evening of conversation with new City Manager, Jon Jennings. Running from 6:30 to 8:00 PM, this event will feature a presentation by him followed by a Q and A. Please submit questions to Ian in advance of the meeting if possible.
- Ian was part of an informal group discussing the City’s comprehensive plan survey process. The group discussed what could be done about the lack of comprehensiveness of the survey itself in its attempt to solicit broad-based contributions. A new, more formal group going by the name #Portlandparticipates has tried to publicize the survey more widely and has helped increase the number of surveys completed. Members of the group have also met with Mayor Ethan Strimling and with the head of city planning, Jeff Levine, to discuss how more people can become involved.
Portland Climate Action Team Sierra Club
Elissa and Allen Armstrong made a presentation on behalf of the Sierra Club Portland Climate Action Team (PCAT). The main goal of PCAT is to promote solar use throughout the City. The presentation discussed the science of climate change as well as the current structural arrangement with Central Maine Power known as “net metering.” The presentation also introduced the concept of Community Solar Farms (CSFs) as being an option for those who, for whatever reason, cannot install their own rooftop solar array. WENA member Rosanne Graef’s property in Wayne, Maine is hosting the second CSF in the entire state.
PCAT is also encouraging the City of Portland to develop solar farms on City-owned land. Currently, the landfill on Ocean Avenue is under consideration for a 660 Kw farm that would take up two of the 28 acres of the entire site. Such a solar array would reduce City CO2 emissions by an estimated 325 tons per year. The Armstrongs encouraged everyone to contact their councilors and legislators and urge their approval of this project. They also distributed forms on which people could indicate their level of interest in being involved with a CSF.
A Q and A followed their presentation.
Protect Our Neighborhood Schools
PTO member, Jeanne Swanton, offered a presentation on behalf of a new group called Protect our Neighborhood Schools (PONS). This group is pressing for improvement to public school facilities, stating that all Portland schools should have safe and innovative facilities. PONS will host a community discussion on the state of the schools this Thursday, 11 February from 6:30 to 8:00 PM in the Reiche auditorium. Ms. Swanton also gave a brief history of the renovation schedule for the public school and said that PONS hopes to get a bond on the ballot to pay for renovations for the four schools needing the most improvements. Reiche is one of those four schools. A Q and A followed her presentation.
- Rosanne Graef had attended the most recent Disability Advisory Committee meeting and gave a report on the meeting she attended. The meeting focused primarily on transportation issues and working with METRO.
- The Book Nook (BN) still needs volunteers and children’s picture books. See Rosanne Graef if you have time to volunteer or books to donate. On Thursday 18 February, BN volunteer Michel is organizing a Go Fish card tournament for kids on winter vacation. Rosanne will begin a chapter of “Chase the Chill” knitters during regular BN hours. The idea is for people knit whatever they want and then give the items away. They will aim for Veteran’s Day at Congress Square Park so scarves, hats, mittens, gloves would be appropriate.
- WENA’s Together WECAN community organizing initiative has been aiming to do some sort of community activity every few months. A small group will try to do a photo exhibit next year similar to the one done a few years ago (the results of which have been on display in the community room for the past few months). Photos should be taken this year by a West End resident and depict something identifiably in the West End.
- WENA’s nascent Aging in Place initiative is proceeding by gauging interest of those in near-by neighborhood associations. About 40 people have responded positively and Rosanne noted that there will be a general information meeting in the spring.
- Steven Scharf reported that a new bar/restaurant will be opening at the corner of Danforth and Clark soon. The name may be Blue Parrot and the owner is a restauranteur from Lewiston.
- Susan Nelson reported that she had attended a food initiative meeting discussed in a recent issue of the West End News. This meeting was organized by a group that began under former Mayor Michael Brennan and that is now somewhat rudderless after his departure. They remain hopeful that activities such as more urban gardens will come to the City. More information is available on the City’s website under “Mayor’s Initiative for a Healthy and Sustainable Food System.”
- Penny Rich asked about the status of the parking lot next to Fresh Approach. Ian responded based on Todd Alexander’s presentations to WENA over the past several months. The entire project is still very much in process and he is not sure that the sale has actually gone through.
Councilor Thibodeau Announcements
Spencer Thibodeau updated the group on the following matter:
- The Clark Street ramp at Reiche is closed because of structural concerns. The City is beginning to take steps towards what he hopes will be school equity and he foresees significant changes to the infrastructure of Reiche in the near future. In particulate, the Clark Street ramp will come down and a new entrance with elevator will take its place. Other improvements are scheduled as well with a projected $800,000 to 1 million being invested in Reiche alone. The work is intended to be complete by time school starts in September.
Councilor Thibodeau then took a few questions and the assembled group thanked him for his efforts especially on behalf of the Reiche building.
The meeting adjourned at 8:06 PM.